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lemurs of madagascar
Lemurs of Madagascar
Madagascar is world-famous for its lemurs—primates that look something like a cat crossed with a squirrel and a dog.
These animals are unique to the island and display a range of interesting behaviors from singing like a whale (the indri) to sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer .
(the sifaka). Below you will learn more about these fascinating creatures..
Madagascar lacks the dominant form of primate distributed worldwide, those of the suborder Haplorhini (monkeys, chimps, gorillas, and Homo sapiens).
Instead, their niche has been filled by an older group of primates, the lemurs. Lemurs belong to the sub-order Strepsirhini together with bushbabies.
lorises, and pottos which—like the original lemurs—are nocturnal.
insectivorous primates characterized by a small body, a long nose, and large eyes.
Lemurs have an interesting evolutionary history and the only reason they still exist today is because of Madagascar’s isolation.
160 million years ago
Until around 160 million years ago, Madagascar was attached to the African mainland as part of the super continent Gondwanaland.
(formed of Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, India, and Madagascar). As Gondwanaland broke apart, Madgascar moved away from Africa.
The first lemur-like primates on the fossil record appeared roughly 60 million years ago in mainland Africa and crossed over to Madagascar shortly thereafter.
The island continued to drift eastward and by the time monkeys appeared on the scene 17-23 million years ago.
Madagascar was isolated from their arrival. As highly intelligent and adaptive primates.
monkeys quickly drove the lemur lineage elsewhere in the world toward extinction.
(a few Strepsirhines—including bushbabies, lorises, and pottos—managed to hang on by retaining their nocturnal, solitary, and insectivorous traits).
Today Madagascar is home to over 110 species of lemurs across five families and 14 genera ranging in size from the 25-gram pygmy mouse lemur to the indri.
All these species are endemic to Madagascar (two lemur species were introduced to the Comoros) giving the country the highest number of primate species .
(Brazil, which has 77 species but only two endemic genera and no endemic families, is second).
And new species are still being discovered— between 2000 and 2008, 39 new species were described.
Global importance of Madagascar’s lemurs
According to Russell Mittermeier in The Eighth Continent, although Madagascar “is only one of 92 countries with wild primate populations, it is alone responsible for 21 percent (14 of 65) of all primate genera and 36 percent .
(five of 14) of all primate families, making it the single highest priority” for primate conservation. “Madagascar is so important for primates that primatologists divide the world into four major regions: the whole of South and Central America.
all of southern and southeast Asia, mainland Africa, and Madagascar, which ranks as a full-fledged region all by itself.”
Non-scientists generally group lemurs by their primary time of activity: day or night.
Nocturnal lemurs are typically smaller and more reclusive than their diurnal counterparts. Lemurs are vocal animals.
making sounds that range from the grunts and swears of brown lemurs and sifaka to the chirps of mouse lemurs to the eerie, wailing call of the indri.
which has been likened to a cross between a police siren and the song of a humpback whale.
For Malagasy trapped in poverty, threatened lemurs and fossas are fair game
– Half of nearly 700 households surveyed in a recent study in Makira National Park in Madagascar reported eating lemur meat and a quarter had consumed fossa meat.
– The research conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society relied on indirect questioning .
and revealed unusually high levels of consumption of meat from the fossa.
Madagascar’s top predator.
– Hunting pressure combined with shrinking habitats could lead to the local extinction of the indri, a critically endangered species and the largest living lemur.
along with three other lemur species in the park.
– WCS’s current research will feed into a “behavior change campaign” to promote alternatives to hunting like poultry and fish farming, and harvesting of edible insects.
Podcast: It’s an ‘incredibly exciting’ time for the field of bioacoustics
– On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we look at why it’s such an “incredibly exciting” time to be involved in the field of conservation bioacoustics.
— and we listen to some new and favorite wildlife recordings, too.
– Our guest is Laurel Symes, assistant director of the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.
Symes tells us about how a new $24 million endowment will allow the center to expand its support for bioacoustics research.
and technology around the world and why this field is poised to make a huge impact on conservation.
– After our conversation with her.
we listen to some of the most interesting bioacoustics recordings we’ve featured on the Mongabay Newscast.
including the sounds of elephants, lemurs, gibbons, right whales, humpback whales, and frogs.
Life on the Ground
Lemurs use their hands and feet to move nimbly through the trees, but cannot grip with their tails as some of their primate cousins do. Ring-tailed lemurs also spend a lot of time on the ground, which is unusual among lemur species. They forage for fruit, which makes up the greater part of their diet, but also eat leaves, flowers, tree bark, and sap.
Ring-tailed lemurs have powerful scent glands and use their unique odor as a communication tool and even as a kind of weapon. Lemurs mark their territory by scent, serving notice of their presence to all who can smell. During mating season, male lemurs battle for dominance by trying to outstink each other. They cover their long tails with smelly secretions and wave them in the air to determine which animal is more powerful.
Ring-tailed lemurs live in groups known as troops. These groups may include 6 to 30 animals, but average about 17. Both sexes live in troops, but a dominant female presides over all.
Ring-tailed lemurs are threatened, largely because the sparse, dry forests they love are quickly vanishing.
Lemurs (/ˈliːmər/ ( listen) LEE-mər) (from Latin lemures – ghosts or spirits) are mammals of the order Primates, divided into 8 families and consisting of 15 genera and around 100 existing species. They are native only to the island of Madagascar.